January 12, 2020, Baptized For A Time Like This, by Reverend David Tatgenhorst
Matthew 3:13-17 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. John tried to dissuade Jesus, saying, “I should be baptized by you, and yet you come to me!” But Jesus replied, “Leave it this way for now. We must do this to completely fulfill God’s justice.” so John reluctantly agreed. Immediately after Jesus had been baptized and was coming up out of the water, the sky suddenly opened up and Jesus saw the spirit of God descending as a dove and hovering over him. With that, a voice from the heavens said, “This is my Own, my Beloved, on whom my favor rests.”
In this moment of silence, breathe into what it means to be a baptized human being, what it means to have God’s claim on your life, God being incarnated through you.
January 12th, 2020 (for audio, click the date)
Who do you know who was born in 2019? I have a few pictures here – one of the new Bohot baby, Ronald Howard Bohot, adopted after he was born on Dec. 21st. Here’s one of a cousin, Zoe Grace Judson, born May 12. And of course, there’s Rayan Pantano, born Nov. 12, who was with us for our Christmas Eve service, with a baby who hasn’t been born but was present with his mother Laura Woolston Smith that night.
Are there other babies born in the past year you’d like to name today?
Today we continue to celebrate the incarnation, the birth of the Christ child, the Spirit becoming flesh and living among us. We celebrate the baptism of Jesus today and next week too, reading today the account from Matthew and next week the account from the gospel of John. We will notice how the accounts are the same and a little different and what they say about our own baptism, about the incarnation in us and in our midst.
I’ve had the pleasure of baptizing a few people in this place over the years. I remember in particular today Maggie and Ben, Noah, Keith, Dan and Cayla, Joshua and Matthew. I also got to baptize Marley, Vance and Berkley, Eliza and Grayson, Eleanor, Gus & Nola. There were a few others along the way. Every one of them precious. Every one of them a child of God, claimed and blessed and empowered by God’s love.
I want you to notice that all of these people are people we have important relationships with. There’s a few others I baptized who moved away or we lost relationship with a little, but we continue to love them too and hold them in prayer. Sometimes people complain that people just want to have their kids ‘done’ and then they leave. I guess that happens sometimes. Sometimes we have had trouble communicating to people that baptism is the beginning of a ministry, not the end of a series of classes or of becoming a member. But most of the time baptism begins a relationship and connection that is long term.
All of us who have been baptized began a new relationship with the Living God when we were baptized. We didn’t get finished by that divine process, we just got claimed by it. A lot of us don’t remember taking the vows at baptism, but some of us remember taking them at the confirmation and commissioning.
Here’s a picture of what my baptism T-shirt looks like. A pastor friend got it for me this past year, in 2019 … after I had purchased one for myself. It’s just too good to pass up. “Resisting evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.” Some might summarize the vows a little differently.
I might also summarize the vows as accepting the grace of God in and through Jesus Christ. That’s what gives us the ability to keep going despite our constant failure to resist evil, injustice and oppression. Grace keeps us going. Grace is what starts and fuels our ongoing relationship with God, and grace keeps putting out the expectation that we will resist evil, injustice and oppression wherever we see it.
Bishop Royster, the interim director of POWER, has been challenging us in our work, to come alive, to never phone in our organizing work, or do busy work just to show that we’re doing something. I feel like that’s a challenge we can use in every part of our lives. How often do we think, “OK, I just have to get through this. I’ll just do what I have to do to get by.” What would it take for us to come alive for this moment, for this challenge, whatever it is.
Jesus’ ministry and work were never separated from his identity as God’s beloved. A voice from the heavens said, “This is my Own, my Beloved, on whom my favor rests.” When we remember our baptism, it can wake us up to our identity as God’s beloved, in and through the beloved community of God. We came from somewhere. We came from a people who give us our identity. We come from a people who hold as God’s beloved. We come from a people whose hopes and longing live in us.
May we be part of the incarnation of God this year – through our baptism, through remembering, through living out our part in the beloved community of the Living God. This is God’s good news.
Responsive Hymn - 3045 Down by the Jordan